Environmental Data Scientist & Founder at Ecoquants
Ben Best (PhD), Environmental Data Scientist & Founder at Ecoquants
Ben is an environmental data scientist with a background in marine spatial ecology. At EcoQuants, he is working on biodiversity and renewable energy in the oceans with NOAA, NASA, the National Renewable Energy Lab and the National Park Service. Prior to founding EcoQuants, he lectured at UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and was the senior analyst for the Ocean Health Index, a research project housed at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. In 2016, he completed a PhD at Duke University’s Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab where he worked on Marine Geospatial Ecology Tools, OBIS-SEAMAP marine animal observation geoportal, Census of Marine Life mapping & visualization and predictive distribution modeling of cetaceans.
Increasing human use of the oceans is making it harder to sustain fisheries, reduce impacts on endangered species and generally maintain healthy ecosystems that benefit society into the future. I’ll share data-driven approaches to reducing impacts to ecosystems and endangered species, particularly whales and dolphins. By associating observations of marine animals with the detectable environment (remotely and in situ), habitat models can predict where, when and how many of a species are expected. These models can then be used in spatio-temporal decision frameworks that explicitly identify tradeoffs between industry profit and conservation gain. For instance, ships can be routed around whale hotspots to prevent ship strike while minimizing deviation from a straight path and offshore wind can be sited to minimize impact on birds while optimizing profitability. Finally, the Ocean Health Index demonstrates how a reductionist framework can cull many complex datasets into a hierarchical index for readily understanding our sustainable use of the oceans globally.